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Security, rain dampen China protests against Japan

September 21, 2010

By Chris Buckley and Farah Master
Reuters
September 18, 2010

BEIJING/SHANGHAI -- About a hundred Chinese protesters on Saturday
demanded Japan free a Chinese boat captain, but tight security and
rain deterred a bigger show of anger over an issue that has ratcheted
up territorial tensions.

Under a steady downpour, the protesters, mostly in their 20s,
gathered in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing and held
placards and yelled slogans denouncing the detention of the captain,
seized by the Japanese coast guard after their boats collided in the
disputed East China Sea over a week ago.

They were surrounded by hundreds of police and security forces, who
took placards away from some people hoping to protest and pushed
along the demonstrators as the crowd swelled.

"Return our boat captain, release him now," a group of protesters
yelled. "Down with Japanese imperialism," they shouted. "Americans
get out of Asia."

The captain's detention has become an emotive focus for long-running
disputes between Beijing and Tokyo about territorial rights in the
seas, especially around a group of uninhabited islets, called the
Diaoyu islands in China and Senkakus in Japan.

But China's ruling Communist Party is wary of any unrest and appears
to have no appetite for a repeat of 2005, when sometimes violent
protests against Japan broke out in several cities.

"The boat captain is a hostage, and we came to tell Japan to hand him
back and get out of the Diaoyu Islands," said Hu Xu.

WAR ANNIVERSARY

Saturday marked the 79th anniversary of the "Mukden incident," a
watershed event in Japan's occupation of northeast China.

The memories of Japan's brutal occupation of China, which lasted
throughout World War Two, continue to stoke Chinese public ire about
Japan, and the incident's anniversary is marked every year,
especially in Mukden, now called Shenyang.

The official Xinhua news agency said there was another protest in
Shenyang, where sirens will wail later to commemorate the day.

"To remember history is not to remember hatred, but to prevent the
tragedy from recurring," Xinhua quoted Wang Jinsi, a member of the
Chinese Society for Anti-Japanese War History, as saying.

A small demonstration was also staged outside the Japanese consulate
in the commercial hub of Shanghai, where torrid protests broke out in
2005. It was soon dispersed by large numbers of police after some scuffles.

"I don't understand what the government is doing. They should let
everyone at least see that the Chinese people are not happy," said
Wang Qi, 30, complaining about the police ending their protest.

Four men taped an 8 metre (26 ft) banner to lampposts outside the
consulate, which was cordoned off by police, reading: "The Diaoyu
islands are China's! It was illegal to detain the boat! Return the captain!"

In Beijing, lines of People's Armed Police and plainclothes officers
bolstered security around the Japanese embassy.

Clusters of people behind the police cordons occasionally yelled
slogans and held up signs denouncing Japan. Some sang the Chinese
national anthem.

On Friday, China said it had the right to do what it wants in gas
fields in the East China Sea, adding another layer of friction
between the two big Asian powers. Japan has warned it would take
"appropriate steps" if there is proof that Beijing has begun drilling.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Maxim Duncan in
Shanghai; Writing by Tom Miles; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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